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Can Wedding Venues Cite Religious Beliefs to Deny Interracial Couples?

Mississippi state flag
By Christopher Coble, Esq. on September 09, 2019 6:00 AM

Interracial marriage has been legal nationwide ever since the Supreme Court's decision Loving v. Virginia in 1967. And same-sex marriage has been legal since 2015's Obergefell v. Hodges ruling. But, as many same-sex couples have learned, wedding vendors haven't been the most accommodating to hosting, working at, or servicing same-sex weddings, citing religious objections. (And, sadly, some courts have ruled that's OK.) What's more rare these days is interracial couples being denied service based on the same reasons.

But an interracial couple was allegedly denied access to a Mississippi wedding venue because of an employee's religion. "[W]e don't do gay weddings or mixed raced (weddings) because of our Christian race, I mean our Christian belief," the female employee said.

Arguments and Assumptions

LaKambria Welch posted video of the interaction to Facebook over the weekend. In it, her brother, who is black, and his fiancée, who is white, ask a staff member at Boone's Camp Event Hall what in the Bible forbids interracial marriage. "Well I just don't want to argue my faith," she responds. "We just don't participate, we just choose not to."

The event hall appeared to have a change of heart before ultimately deleting their Facebook page. Screenshots obtained by WCBI show an apology prefaced by, "As a child growing up in Mississippi, our racial boundaries that were unstated were that of staying in your own race." After searching for textual support over the weekend and consulting a pastor, the author acknowledged "biracial relationships were NEVER mentioned in the Bible!"

"My intent was never of racism but to stand firm on what I 'assumed' was right concerning marriage," the post read. "As my Bible reads, there are two requirements for marriage and race has nothing to do with either!" Welch also deleted her Facebook post with video of the initial interaction.

Acts and Accommodations

In 2016, the State of Mississippi passed the "Protecting Freedom of Conscience from Government Discrimination Act" or "Religious Liberty Accommodations Act," which protects persons, religious organizations, and private associations who withhold services in accordance with "deeply held religious beliefs or moral convictions." Those protected beliefs, however, are listed in the bill and all relate to marriage and sexual relations between one man and one woman. It never mentions race.

If you've been denied service (marriage related or otherwise) based on race, gender identity, or sexual preference, contact an experienced discrimination attorney for legal assistance.

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